Nasser Al Attiyah and Tina Thorner reach a checkpoint in the Empty Quarter during the UAE Desert Challenge last year.
Nasser Al Attiyah and Tina Thorner reach a checkpoint in the Empty Quarter during the UAE Desert Challenge last year.

Al Attiyah after six of the best



DUBAI // Qatar's Nasser al Attiyah is hoping to eclipse his compatriot Misfer Al Marri and wrap up a sixth regional crown in this weekend's 25th Dubai International Rally - the season-ending round of the Middle East Rally Championship [MERC]. "This round is crucial for me as this is the last round in the calendar," said al Attiyah, who has also represented his country in skeet shooting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "The outcome will not just decide who walks away with the Dubai prize, but also the overall championship title."

Despite entering only four of the season's six rounds, al Attiyah has won them all. He leads the MERC standings on 40 points, three ahead of al Marri, while the Saudi driver Yazeed al Rajhi, who has amassed 32 points in four rallies, is also in contention. Nine stages, covering 265.7 competitive kilometres, will decide the destiny of this season's title, with the field tackling five stages tomorrow and four on Saturday. And rally organisers believe it is the perfect route to determine a worthy champion.

"The Dubai International Rally has decided the MERC champion many times over the years," said Mohammed ben Sulayem, the president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and 14-time regional rally champion. "This year in particular, the championship is still very wide open between the top two contenders, al Attiyah and al Marri, with al Rajhi waiting in the wings for either to make a mistake."

Amid the tight title picture, al Attiyah remains the clear favourite. The Qatari is chasing a fifth consecutive Dubai win and only UAE driver Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi's 2004 MERC triumph has interrupted his regional dominance in recent years. But with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver not among the Dubai entrants after a demanding World Rally Championship season, only al Marri and al Rajhi can stop al Attiyah making it six championships out of seven.

@Email:emegson@thenational.ae

Racecard

6.30pm: Mazrat Al Ruwayah Group Two (PA) US$55,000 (Dirt) 1,600m

7.05pm: Meydan Trophy (TB) $100,000 (Turf) 1,900m

7.40pm: Handicap (TB) $135,000 (D) 1,200m

8.15pm: Balanchine Group Two (TB) $250,000 (T) 1,800m

8.50pm: Handicap (TB) $135,000 (T) 1,000m

9.25pm: Firebreak Stakes Group Three (TB) $200,000 (D) 1,600m

10pm: Handicap (TB) $175,000 (T) 2,410m

The National selections: 6.30pm: RM Lam Tara, 7.05pm: Al Mukhtar Star, 7.40pm: Bochart, 8.15pm: Magic Lily, 8.50pm: Roulston Scar, 9.25pm: Quip, 10pm: Jalmoud

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Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

MATCH INFO:

Second Test

Pakistan v Australia, Tuesday-Saturday, 10am​​ daily​​​​​ at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Entrance is free

Stormy seas

Weather warnings show that Storm Eunice is soon to make landfall. The videographer and I are scrambling to return to the other side of the Channel before it does. As we race to the port of Calais, I see miles of wire fencing topped with barbed wire all around it, a silent ‘Keep Out’ sign for those who, unlike us, aren’t lucky enough to have the right to move freely and safely across borders.

We set sail on a giant ferry whose length dwarfs the dinghies migrants use by nearly a 100 times. Despite the windy rain lashing at the portholes, we arrive safely in Dover; grateful but acutely aware of the miserable conditions the people we’ve left behind are in and of the privilege of choice. 

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Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

UAE tour of the Netherlands

UAE squad: Rohan Mustafa (captain), Shaiman Anwar, Ghulam Shabber, Mohammed Qasim, Rameez Shahzad, Mohammed Usman, Adnan Mufti, Chirag Suri, Ahmed Raza, Imran Haider, Mohammed Naveed, Amjad Javed, Zahoor Khan, Qadeer Ahmed

Fixtures: Monday, first 50-over match; Wednesday, second 50-over match; Thursday, third 50-over match

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Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
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Industry: Refurbished electronics
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ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

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Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
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